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Bush: Iraq Reaches Historic Moment With Help From U.S. Forces

By Sgt. Sara Wood, USA
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 21, 2006 – Sectarian violence that erupted after the Feb. 22 bombing of a mosque in Samarra, Iraq, could have led to civil war. But Iraqis stayed united and are working to build a united government, President Bush said here today.

When violence broke out, the Iraqi army didn't break apart into sectarian divisions, and religious and political leaders stood up to the violence and committed themselves to progress, Bush said at a White House news conference. The efforts of the Iraqis, along with continued coalition support, are what kept the country out of civil war, he said.

"The men and women of the U.S. military are showing magnificent courage, and they're making important sacrifices that have brought Iraq to an historic moment -- the opportunity to build a democracy that reflects its country's diversity, that serves its people, and is an active partner in the fight against terrorists," Bush said.

Iraq's leaders must now take advantage of the opportunity they have to form a democracy and put aside their differences in favor of national unity, Bush said. Iraqi officials' agreement March 19 to form a council giving each of the country's political factions a voice in security and economic policies is a sign that the leaders understand the importance of democracy and are committed to unity, he said.

There will still be violence in Iraq, but the U.S. must stay committed because the consequences of leaving Iraq too early would be grave, Bush said. "Iraq would become a place of instability, a place from which the enemy can plot, plan and attack," he said. "I believe that they want to hurt us again, and therefore I know we need to stay on the offense against this enemy. They've declared Iraq to be the central front, and therefore we've got to make sure we win that, and I believe we will."

Bush said he understands why Americans are concerned about the prospects for victory in Iraq, particularly because of the trauma the war has caused to this country's servicemembers and citizens. However, the United States has a clear strategy for victory that can be achieved, he said. "If I didn't believe we could succeed, I wouldn't be there," he said. "I wouldn't put those kids there. I meet with too many families who lost a loved one to not be able to look them in the eye and say we're doing the right thing."

Democracy in Iraq will be the right thing, Bush said, because it will inspire other reformers in the Middle East and spread the idea of liberty. "This isn't American liberty; this isn't, you know, America's possession," he said. "Liberty's universal. People desire to be free, and history has proven that democracies don't war. And so part of the issue is to lay peace, is to give people a chance to live in a peaceful world."

No president wants war, Bush said, but on Sept. 11, 2001, the country was faced with the reality of terrorism and foreign policy had to be changed to protect the American people. Iraq is only part of the global war on terrorism, but America will remain committed to fighting tyranny, not only to spread liberty around the world, but also to keep the country safe, he said.

"I'm never going to forget the vow I made to the American people that we will do everything in our power to protect our people," he said.

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